Is Sotomayor an Enigma on Abortion?

Yesterday, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina and the third woman ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is currently a federal judge on New York’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Born to Puerto Rican immigrant parents and raised by her mother in the housing projects of the South Bronx, Sotomayor went on to attend college at Princeton and law school at Yale. George H.W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. District Court in 1991 and Bill Clinton “promoted” her to the 2nd Circuit in 1998.


Political Scientist Scott Lemieux writes for TAPPED that, in light of her distinguished resume and inspiring biography, Sotomayor’s confirmation is all but assured:

[...] Obama cited three criteria in choosing Sotomayor: 1) her intellectual capacity (as demonstrated in her sterling academic record, her success as an assistant district attorney, and her distinguished service as a federal judge); 2) her approach to judging based on her opinions, which represent a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail; and 3) her compelling personal story, rising from poverty in the Bronx to Princeton to being an editor at the Yale Law Journal. This combination of factors will, I think, make her confirmation inevitable.

In the Nation, John Nichols says that the Sotomayor pick “reflects America”. Within hours of the announcement of Souter’s resignation, conventional wisdom had pegged Sotomayor as the odds-on favorite for the nomination. There were a few bumps along the way, though. Brian Beutler of TPM reports on the anatomy of a preemptive whispering capaign starring anonymous law clerks quoted in the New Republic questioning Sotomayor’s intelligence and temperament.

While Sotomayor has a reputation for being a liberal jurist, her record contains few hints about her views on abortion. Attorney and feminist writer Jill Filipovic reviews Sotomayor’s record on abortion for RH Reality Check. Sotomayor has only ruled on one major abortion-related case in her time as a judge, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, and as Filipovic says, Sotomayor’s conclusion “isn’t going to warm the hearts of reproductive rights activists.”

But, as Filipovic explains, abortion wasn’t the issue at stake in this case. Rather, the question was whether the Bush administration’s Global Gag Rule was violating the constitutional rights of American NGOs. The gag rule threatened to revoke their federal funding for working with foreign NGOs that discussed abortion. For various technical reasons, Sotomayor concluded that the rule was constitutional after all. Filipovic continues:

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